N. Korea announces nuclear test, fires 3 short-range missiles

North Korea carried out its second underground nuclear test and fired three short-range missiles toward the Sea of Japan on Monday, prompting the scheduling of an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council.

North Korea, through its official media, said it ''successfully conducted one more underground nuclear test on May 25 as part of the measures to bolster up its nuclear deterrent for self-defense.''

South Korean Defense Minister Lee Sang Hee told parliament that North Korea test-fired three short-range missiles from its eastern coast after declaring that it had successfully conducted a nuclear test.

The nuclear test was ''safely conducted'' and its results ''helped satisfactorily settle the scientific and technological problems arising in further increasing the power of nuclear weapons,'' the Korean Central News Agency report said.

Russia's Itar-Tass news agency quoted a high-ranking Russian defense official as saying the power of the nuclear explosive device tested in the northeastern part of North Korea, where its first nuclear underground test was conducted in October 2006, was about 20 kilotons.

Japan on Monday proposed that Russia, which currently holds the rotating monthly presidency of the Security Council, convene an urgent meeting to discuss North Korea's nuclear test.

The U.N. Security Council will meet at the U.N. headquarters in New York at 4 p.m. Monday local time, a U.N. spokesman said.

Japanese Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone said he and his South Korean counterpart Yu Myung Hwan agreed on the need for an emergency council meeting during talks in Hanoi on the sidelines of a gathering of Asia-Europe Meeting ministers.

''The nuclear test violates a U.N. Security Council resolution. (We) strongly denounce and protest against it,'' Nakasone told reporters after his talks with Yu.

In Tokyo, Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura told reporters the North Korean test was ''absolutely impermissible'' and vowed ''adamant responses.''

U.S. President Barack Obama, in a statement, called North Korea's nuclear test a ''violation of international law'' which, together with other provocative activities involving its ballistic missile program, ''warrants action by the international community.''

''By acting in blatant defiance of the United Nations Security Council, North Korea is directly and recklessly challenging the international community.''' Obama said.

After Pyongyang conducted its first nuclear test in 2006, the Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution expressing ''the gravest concern'' and calling for all U.N. members to take wide-ranging economic and diplomatic sanctions.

Last April, Pyongyang had threatened to carry out further nuclear tests as well as test-firings of intercontinental ballistic missiles unless the U.N. Security Council apologized for censuring it over its rocket launch earlier the same month.

The KCNA report did not mention where the nuclear test took place, but South Korean presidential spokesman Lee Dong Kwan said an artificial earthquake with a magnitude of 4.5 was detected at 9:54 a.m. in Poongkye-ri in Kilju County of North Hamkyong Province in the northeastern part of North Korea.

The Japan Meteorological Agency said it detected seismic waves from North Korea around 9:54 a.m., with the focus almost identical to the origin of percussions from the North's first nuclear test, in an area where seismic activity is rare.

U.N. Security Council condemns North's claimed nuclear test

The U.N. Security Council on Monday condemned North Korea's proclaimed second nuclear test, the council president said.

''The members of the Security Council voiced their strong opposition to and condemnation of the nuclear test'' conducted by North Korea on Monday, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, who currently holds the rotating monthly presidency of the Security Council, said in a statement issued after the emergency council meeting.

The latest nuclear test ''constitutes a clear violation'' of Resolution 1718 banning North Korea from any ballistic missile and nuclear activity, Churkin said.

The Security Council president also said the council's 15 members ''have decided to start work immediately on a Security Council resolution on this matter in accordance with the Security Council's responsibilities under the Charter of the United Nations.''

The Security Council convened the meeting in response to a proposal Japanese Ambassador to the United Nations Yukio Takasu made earlier Monday.

The five permanent members of the U.S. Security Council plus Japan and South Korea met shortly before the council's urgent meeting apparently to discuss what action the Security Council should take following Pyongyang's claimed nuclear test earlier Monday.

Japan and the United States are expected to seek a Security Council resolution with the aim of imposing fresh sanctions on North Korea, while China and Russia are apparently cautious about such a move as it could hamper efforts to resume the stalled six-party talks on denuclearizing North Korea.

The six-party talks involve the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States.

In Hanoi earlier Monday, Japanese Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone met with his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi and sought Beijing's support for Tokyo's push to produce a U.N. Security Council resolution in response to the North Korean action.

But Yang was non-committal, telling Nakasone simply that China is seriously listening to Japan's position and wants to continue talks with Japan.

Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso claimed that North Korea's action constitutes ''a grave challenge'' to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and ''a clear violation'' of UNSC Resolution 1718, which bans any ballistic missile and nuclear activity by Pyongyang.

Japan's hope for the Security Council adopting a resolution following Pyongyang's rocket launch on April 5 was dashed mainly in the face of opposition from veto-wielding Security Council members China and Russia.

The Security Council instead adopted on April 13 a nonbinding presidential statement on the rocket launch that Japan and many countries believe was a disguised test-firing of a long-range ballistic missile. North Korea claims that the launch put a satellite into orbit.

After Pyongyang conducted its first nuclear test in October 2006, the Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution expressing ''the gravest concern'' and calling for all U.N. members to halt trade in weapons and luxury goods with the country.

Aso, Obama agree on need for new U.N. resolution on N. Korea

Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso and U.S. President Barack Obama agreed Tuesday that the U.N. Security Council must swiftly adopt a new resolution to impose additional sanctions on North Korea for conducting its second nuclear test despite an existing resolution banning it, Japanese government sources said.

In telephone conversations held Tuesday morning to discuss an appropriate response to the latest action on the part of Pyongyang, the two leaders agreed to encourage China and Russia to cooperate in adopting a fresh U.N. Security Council resolution, the sources said.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura said at a news conference that Aso and Obama agreed it is important that the council swiftly adopt a strong resolution to clearly show the intent of the global community.

The two agreed that the North's proclaimed nuclear test poses a major threat to the peace and stability of Northeast Asia as well as the international community, and that they cannot tolerate the North's action, Kawamura added.

During the talks, Aso told Obama it is regrettable that North Korea conducted the nuclear test at a time when the U.S. president is heightening global momentum toward nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation, the government's top spokesman said.

Japan's Cabinet ministers also expressed the view that the proclaimed underground test, following the first one in October 2006, has generated grave concern for Japan's security and East Asia's stability.

Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone said Japan will take the lead at the U.N. Security Council in drawing up an effective resolution in response to Monday's nuclear test.

Asked whether Japan will push for a resolution involving fresh sanctions on the North, Nakasone said Japan will try to ensure that each country implements agreed measures because Japan's unilateral sanctions alone will be ineffective to prod Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear activity.

Finance Minister Kaoru Yosano said separately that Japan must take countermeasures against North Korea together with other countries as Pyongyang's latest action ''clearly'' violates international law.

''With regard to future responses, Japan must consult closely with other countries, including the United States, China, Russia and South Korea, and consider necessary countermeasures,'' Yosano said at a news conference when asked about whether Japan is ready to impose additional economic sanctions on North Korea.

Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Toshihiro Nikai suggested Japan will not step up its sanctions against North Korea immediately.

The government needs to ''study how effective the result would be if Japan makes a unilateral response,'' Nikai said.

According to the government sources, the Japanese prime minister is making arrangements to hold telephone talks with Chinese and Russian leaders as early as later Tuesday to seek their cooperation for the new resolution.

One senior government official said, ''China, which has been cautious about imposing sanctions (on North Korea), may have to go along with (other countries on imposing them this time).''

(Distributed by Kyodo News on May 25-26, 2009)

Comment: Reckless act a hindrance to the trend of nuclear disarmament
by Noritaka Egusa, Editor/ Senior Staff Writer

For the A-bombed city of Hiroshima, which has long appealed for the abolition of nuclear weapons, North Korea’s nuclear test is an unacceptable and reckless act. It is an act of foolishness that runs counter to the trend within the international community, which aims to eliminate nuclear weapons through the wisdom of the human family.

North Korean news trumpeted the success of the nuclear test, saying “Our goal is to open the great gate to a strong and prosperous nation.” The phrase “a strong and prosperous nation” was also used to herald North Korean’s previous nuclear test in 2006.

I wonder if North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il believes this pursuit of “a strong and prosperous nation” somehow justifies all actions. The country has spent enormous sums developing nuclear warheads and missiles, inviting sanctions from the international community which have resulted in deepening isolation. It is clear these deeds do not serve the people of North Korea.

Voices critical of North Korea, which is pushing ahead with its nuclear development program after pronouncing its withdrawal from the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT), were heard at the third Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) for the NPT Review Conference held recently in New York. Remarks were made urging that the NPT include strict provisions that would enable continuing inspections at North Korea’s nuclear facilities, despite its withdrawal from the pact.

The PrepCom served as a venue for discussions which reflect the will of the international community. Although the international community is obliged to recognize the limits of the NPT regime, which lets pass such acts of foolishness, new developments in nuclear proliferation that could potentially lead to the annihilation of the human race must never be countenanced.

This rash nuclear test by North Korea is judged to be a show of the technological capability of the “strong and prosperous nation” for audiences both at home and abroad, as well as a bargaining chip in bilateral negotiations with the U.S. for the purpose of maintaining the present regime. In the U.S., however, President Barack Obama has recently pledged to pursue “a world without nuclear weapons” as the moral responsibility of the nation which dropped the atomic bombs. At a time when the U.S. government itself is viewing the existence of nuclear weapons in a negative light, I find it hard to believe that North Korea truly imagines it can gain concessions from the U.S. by using nuclear weapons as a ploy.

“The Hiroshima-Nagasaki Declaration of Nobel Peace Laureates,” in which seventeen Nobel Peace Laureates have jointly appealed to the world through the Chugoku Shimbun for nuclear abolition, warns: “We can either put an end to proliferation, and set a course toward abolition; or we can wait for the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to be repeated.”

North Korea’s decision to conduct the nuclear test has thrown cold water on the positive mood toward nuclear disarmament, which has spread globally. This trend includes talks between the U.S. and Russia on a new nuclear arms reduction treaty. There is no easy path for persuading North Korea to resume the six-party talks and abandon its nuclear weapons to fulfill the North East Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone, whose discussions continue but tend to stagnate. Without realizing such aims, though, the door to a world without nuclear weapons can never open. The wisdom and action of the international community and the A-bombed nation of Japan--and above all, their determination not to backslide--are now being tested.

(Originally published on May 26, 2009)